Tag Archives: enterprise tech

Social Networks for Business Tip #4: Use the right tool for the Job

I have found ten common themes that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. The post below is my fourth of 10 tips; each with a particular theme. These are intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


If You Only Have a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail

hammer-and-screw1One of the biggest mistakes I see when enterprises build communities to advance their business is automatically creating a mini-Facebooks based their brand. This type of community is great for internal networking (and even better for business to business networking). However, it more often-than-not far less-than-idea for business-to-consumer communities.

fbliWhy is this so? The reason is simple: people only have so much time in the day. They have enough trouble trying to keep up-to-date on Facebook (likely their personal networking community) and LinkedIn (likely their professional one). They do not have time to join half a dozen other networks where they are going to have to create profile, check messages and post content—especially if the network is not focused on something central to their everyday lives.

So what do you do when you want to build an effective community to advance your business-to-consumer interactions and realize that trying to create yet-another-mini-Facebook is no more successful than when companies tried to create mini-AOLs ten years ago? The obvious: get another tool from the toolbox

There is More Than One Tool to Use When Building Communities

In Steps 2 and 3, we defined the problem we are trying to address and what success looks like. Now that we have defined this, it is easy to pick the right tool for the job.

There are a lot more tools out there than simple mini-Facebooks. Below are three that I see and use (as end user and provider) everyday in business environments :

  1. Mobile social media communities to call consumers to action to attend events of visit stores (physical or online)
  2. Social-based contest communities to excite people to share information to win points, makeovers or simply build social recognition
  3. Crowdsourcing communities that elicit ideas and “bubble up” the most popular to the top

As these “tools” combine and present underlying social networking widgets (e.g., blogs, forums) together in ways that focus on solving specific problems, I usually call them Business Services or Business Solutions.

A Simple Imaginary Application of This

Would you join a social network to blog, chat and post about gas stations (someplace you visit every week)? Probably not. (I can’t image why I would do this or what I would talk about.) Would you visit a contest community where people could share (via mobile phone pics) which gas stations have the best price in your zip code? Yes! Would you post there, if you could win points on your gas card or a free car wash if you find the station with the lowest price? Very likely. Would you ask someone to build this for you if you could get a good combined ROI from the ad revenue and increase business (vs. petroleum companies who do not have this)? Even more likely.

Real-world Examples of Businesses Who Have Applied This Well

Here are four examples of companies who picked the right tool to address the problem they were trying to solve via a community:

ADIDAS’s Mobile Social Network

ADIDAS wanted to drive in-store sales during the NBA All-star Week (while people were walking around the venue). A full-feature social network community would have been a poor choice for this. Instead, they went with a mobile social network. Click here to see a video on this initiative and its results.

Dell’s IdeaStorm

Dell has embraced social networking in many forms to continue to advance their mission for online- and call center-based tailoring of computers for consumers. The single initiative that resonated the most was IdeaStorm, a crowdsourcing community that asked customers to give Dell ideas how to provide better products. This has been their most effective community to-date.

Sometimes a full-featured destination community IS the right tool:


GovLoop is a community for government leaders and vendors to collaborate around their shared interest in using social media to make government – something they work on every day – better.

American Express OPEN Forum

American Express’ OPEN Forum is a business-to-business community that lets small business do what they do every day – build networks with other to get what they need and sell what they have – better than they can do without an online community.

Web 2.0 business service for ERP program implementation

Why social networking (a.k.a. Web 2.0) is positioned to help ERP implementation

Over the past decade, I have participated on (fully led, particularly led or directly supported) five different Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) programs. These programs have use both of the leading vendors’ technology platforms – SAP and Oracle. Some have been small (budgets of less than $10-million), some large (budgets exceeding $250-million). Regardless of size or vendor, I have often seen that the largest problems that these programs have to overcome are not technological, they are social:

  1. Getting people in the organization to agree to the need of moving the enterprise on a single, integrated platform
  2. Eliciting people to share input into how their organizations, process and technology work (so you can map their business onto the platform)
  3. Vetting what your produced with enough of the organization to ensure it will enable it work more efficiently (i.e., conducting Red Team reviews)
  4. Finding the points of resistance in the organization to using the new system and processes
  5. Enabling the organization to ask questions, share insights and gain understanding as to how to use the new system after it “goes live”

If an ERP program fails to address any one of these problems, the organization will not realize the intended ROI from its program investment. If the program fails to address several of these, the program may very well fail (this leads to those many metrics on the failure rate of large-scale ERP programs).

As these problems are social in nature, Social Networking (a.k.a. Web 2.0 or — truly in this case — Enterprise 2.0 ) is well-positioned to help address them in a cost-effective manner.

Social Networking solution position for ERP implementations

(You will note that I started this discussion by stating an ERP implementation problem that social networking can address. This follows the business service concept I wrote about last month: that the purpose of technology is not to create widget but to enable people to be more effective in what they do for a living – or do everyday to live. Along this line, the first step after identifying a problem is to establish a position for the solution…)

For: Organizations exacting large-impact ERP program

Who: Want to increase the probability or realizing the promised ROI of large-scale ERP efforts (a 1% increase in probability can generate a $x million value on large-scale ERP programs)

ERP Social Collaboration is a transformational social networking business service

That pairs social networking with ERP Blueprinting, Change Management and Hyper-care efforts to elicit employee concerns, ideas and feedback in response to changes driven by the ERP program

Providing more effective business process reengineering (by exposing process gaps before they are enacted) and increased process adoption (by letting employees voice questions and concerns that can be addressed through communications and training)—ultimately leading to faster realization of ERP program ROI

Unlike traditional change management solutions that do not tap into wide scale employee “ground truth” and traditional hyper-care solutions that react to employ feedback after ERP roll-out rather than during ERP blueprinting or realization

Social networking solution perspective for ERP implementations

The best way to explain how this ERP Social Collaboration Business Service would work to outline a sample perspective of how it would fit into a real-world scenario:

XYZ is a global, large-scale enacting a multi-million-dollar ERP program. The ERP program does not simply deliver a new software application but also requires the entire corporation to realign itself around new global processes for management of human capital, order-to-cash, supply chain, accounts receivable, general ledger, etc. In order for XYZ to fully realize the promised ROI of the ERP program, these new processes must not only improve how resources are managed but also be fully adopted by all staff.

XYZ’s ERP Program Office sets up a social network that mirrors the large-scale processes of the program. Each business process work stream (e.g., Order-to-Cash, Supply Chain, Human Capital Management) will have its own community area with the following: the Business Process Owner’s Journal, a Virtual Business Process Workshop, and the Virtual Business Process Town Hall.

The Business Process Owner’s (BPO’s) Journal serves as a platform to communicate key messages to employees. Here, the BPO can share the goals of the work stream along with its timeline and status. After the program has launched (i.e., achieved go-live), the BPO can post success stories and metrics from his or her journal.

The Virtual Business Process Workshop uses social networking to improve process design. From here, the BPO can issues calls-to-action requesting all employees affected by the process change to share knowledge about existing processes, systems, and organizations. This will reduce the risk of missing key activities, interfaces, or standards during the blue printing phase of the program. It will enable employees to comment on each other ideas and additions, using network behaviors to correct mistakes and drive consensus, making future roll-out and adoption more successful. Finally, when blueprinting nears completion, the BPO can issue a second call-to-action to key opinion leaders to offer comments on the process design, essentially driving a Virtual Red Team exercise across the whole company. Again, this will leverage network behaviors to expose process weaknesses and prioritize risks and other areas of concern, making future roll-out and adoption more successful.

The Virtual Business Process Town Hall will become important as the ERP Program Office prepares XYZ for deployment of the new system and program. From here the BPO and Change Management Team can share inspirational and instructional videos and elicit questions, comments and concerns from affected employees. Again, network behaviors will drive the most critical points of resistance to the forefront, allowing the Change Management Team to concentrate resources on the highest area of need. This will also enable the Go-Live Help Desk to pre-populate their knowledge base with answers to the most commonly expected questions.

Integrating this solution with existing enterprise infrastructure allows XYZ to balance targeted outreach with elicitation of candid responses. By integrating with existing company directories, it can enable BPOs to target calls-to-action to the correct audiences and drive response. However, by anonymizing comments and response during Red Team and Town Hall activities, it can expose true risks that employees may be otherwise reluctant to raise.

The use of social networking allows XYZ to move essential change management activities forward from launch to blueprinting in a highly visible, yet controlled manner. This not only elicits information critical to success, it also facilitates greater ownership and adoption by employees throughout the company. Ultimately, this significantly increases the speed and probability of realizing the promised ROI from these large-scale, capital-intensive programs.

How far away is this?

This is not very far away. I know of a few different technologies (from several companies) that could be coupled together in short order (8-12 weeks) to provide this service. Once this is complete, it can be easily integrated in the standard ERP process implementation approaches (e.g., SAP’s ASAP or Oracle Accelerate) or offered on an a la carte basis (as a competitive advantage by ASAP- or Accelerate-certified Implementation Partners).